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The best and clearly most ethical solution is to create traceable and transparent supply chains that benefit small scale mining communities through fair trade or other auditable systems.  I would never call lab ground gems ethical. 

I am working in Sierra Leone. The labs where you produce are based in the US, certainly not in Sierra Leone. There are environmental and human rights issues around mining here but it is the only source of income for most people involved in it. Avoiding conflict minerals cannot mean to drive Sierra Leone completely out of the market. That is doing more harm than good to people at least in the medium term.

Kathrin, the word "ethical" has little meaning anymore in context to the jewelry industry.   Consumers who purchase synthetic gems and recycled metals are led to believe that bypassing the ASM issues in Sierra Leone and other places somehow helps the world. Therefore, they miss the opportunity to create new models that allow the people of the land to benefit from theh land.   What a shame.

Hazel, I find a number of things unfortunately misguided with Synthetic Gems and EthicMark gems.  Bloodstained Gems .... That's such a sweeping statement . Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe, DRC Congo are not the only countries in Africa producing diamonds and even then why deprive the rural communities of the livelihoods just because someone in the US wants to make a buck or two out of synthetic diamonds.

Yet the new question is: why mine diamonds at all – when identical gemstones are now created by dozens of companies in North America and Europe, often for a fraction of the cost? 

Because it is a livelihoods for Africans and Asians and people in gem producing countries and if regulated well and supported technically to operate responsibly , these gems are the most ethical you can get. They give the miner a livelihood, they feed children , they clothe the miners family, the provide access to an education to the miners children , if done well they provide taxes to the local and national governments supporting infrastructure and socio-economic development, they provide jobs to the massive youth population in Africa.....

Today’s Millennials share deep concerns for the environment and human rights.  They often avoid consumerism, old customs, as well as flashy weddings and costly engagement rings.  Many are burdened with student debt and facing shrinking job opportunities and automation’s displacement by machines.

Why should an developed countries citizens student debt deprive someone making an honest living in Taita Taveta, Kenya?

The issue of ethical is a lot more complex than summarised by your article and website. Different contexts apply to the different gems as well as the producing countries and local regions. To generalise and assume synthetic minerals are the answer to the moral dilemmas faced by consumers without considering the life or death challenges faced by artisanal and small scale miners is in itself unethical. We all have a human right to decent work, whether in a lab or in a mine,  and all solutions in the industry need to constantly have that in consideration.


I totally agree with your comment:  

"To generalize and assume synthetic minerals are the answer to the moral dilemmas faced by consumers without considering the life or death challenges faced by artisanal and small scale miners is in itself unethical."

Unfortunately, many of the leading "ethical" jewelers in the US continue to push synthetics as solution for "conflict gem" issues, making it more difficult to promote beneficiation and well run ASM projects to gemstone consumers.

Yet, I have come to that the whole notion of "conflict free" which is at the center of gemstone marketing is perhaps the most disturbing statement any jeweler, so called ethical or not,  can use.  

Here's why: first, the diamond sector funds wars that kill three million people and then same people who benefitted from the commerce create the KPC and a "conflict free" platform...  Then this conflict free term becomes the basis of marketing gems for the jewelry sector.  Just go a google search and see all the "conflict free" jewelers. 

Apart from the obvious fact that conflict free does not take into account labor or environmental issues, there is something more disturbing about the term that few seem to consider:

"Conflict free"  gemstones and diamonds will not exist until there is truth and reconciliation, and restitution.  Those responsible for atrocities to producer communities must be brought in front of those injured.  AND those damaged in the producer communities must have restitution.

Every time I see the word conflict free I translate it into "African Lives Don't Matter"

Without truth and reconciliation, and restitution, the notion of "conflict free" that "ethical" jewelers is a disgraceful sociopathic marketing ploy.


Majala and Marc :  I am grateful for your thoughtful feedback.

In my second blogpost ,I tried to  make several points .  We support the UN's 17  Sustainable development Goals (SDGs) which promote a new model of development that leapfrogs the unsustainable , cruel, polluting  industries which killed and maimed so  many in the name of economic profit and GDP-growth. This model is now obsolete , because the global financial casino is now a flywheel of social and environmental destruction worldwide. Even the neoliberal THE ECONOMIST published in London now rejects this old model of GDP-measured economic growth . In 2015, 195 countries members of the UN adopted the SDGs and the Paris Agreement on Climate and pledged to  shift their investments and economies towards these new models . 

In Europe and the USA mining industries are going bankrupt and hundreds of thousands of miners are out of work. Coal mining in the USA now employs less than 100,000 miners, while 5 million new jobs are in the solar, wind, efficiency and renewable resource sectors.  The issue is to  make sure that work restoring lands and communities damaged by mining  provide new jobs for miners  and that funds are allocated for re-training and re-deploying  all those affected by these mine closures. Even DeBeers has closed mines in sub-Saharan African countries.

So the writing is on the wall .Many 19th and 20th century industries are being disrupted by innovation and new technologies , such as traditional banking by M-PESA in Kenya , as we report in our Green Transition Scoreboard(r)

We at Ethical Markets Media report daily on all these changes and in our TV series " Transforming Finance"( free at     We have no  financial interests in the rapidly-growing  science-created gem industry worldwide , including in India and China, but we do  report on this disruption on the gem-mining industry  and its cartel pricing  and  our standard seeks to  raise the bar on consumer habits and  values  .  We would be happy to add this dialogue and  your comments to  our website.

Hazel, thanks for your response, however to be honest, I'm not entirely sure I understand your comment and other blog post. Europe and USA mining industries may be shutting down but they have been going on for hundreds of years. Please give examples of African Mining Countries shutting down operations ( In actual fact they are opening up for business and that is why governments are working towards the African Mining Vision from 2009). Or maybe it would be easier to specific the operations De Beers shut down and why.

What writing is on the wall for the African Mining Industry and specifically gem industry? How is this comparable to M-Pesa?

You mention supporting the SDG goals... Please unpack which of the 169 targets you support in relation to ending mining .

I applaud and support any efforts in raising the bar on consumer habits and value and would hope that those same efforts also look to protecting and enhancing trade and incomes for the producers and not burdening them or denying them opportunities.


I also wanted to thank you for your response, and adding on the Majala's new comment, I don't understand how this is relevant.

"In Europe and the USA mining industries are going bankrupt and hundreds of thousands of miners are out of work. Coal mining in the USA now employs less than 100,000 miners, while 5 million new jobs are in the solar, wind, efficiency and renewable resource sectors."

In context to the ASM gold sector, approximately 15 million small scale miners product about 15% to 20% of the world's gold supply.  They are 90% of the labor force involved in gold mining.  Programs that support them though capacity building that leads to standards and principals, such as Fairtrade Gold can be real economic drivers.  This type of mining is a solution for real and long term economic development in many countries.  

Ethical gemstone projects are more limited and there are not international standards yet, though there has been much work in this area. But these are what we should be promoting.  It turns the ASM problems often rooted in historical neocolonial chaos into a great benefit. 

What we need to do is increasing mining operations that are exceptional in practices (as defined by the Initiative For Responsible Mining Standards (IRMA) and though Fairtrade) in order to create more regenerative economic models with traceability and transparency that consumers and businesses such as my own can support. 

 Hi Marc :I signed up at your site. Very nice !  I have spent much good time in Santa Fe .

Hi Majala : Thanks for continuing this dialog. I'll be back in touch soon, since I want to  address your issues more deeply.

Re: Gold :  We are only concerned with mined gemstones , not gold or silver or any other mined  minerals at this time. We favor recycling where possible and also artisan   jewelry, made from stones that are gathered or collected from Earth surface , made from glass and from plants and seeds ,and favor handmade items. We may allow such  items space on our website in future.

re. GOLD